Friday, November 11, 2011

Learning from a Master.

When I worked for Arnold Palmer in the late 80’s and early 90’s I watched his practice sessions as often as I could. I spent hours asking questions, trying to understand his methods and how he became so successful. It is a testament to what a great guy he is that he never showed the slightest impatience at what I am sure he considered routine inquiries. It was during this time video was just becoming an integral part of golf instruction and in the hopes of being ahead of the trend, I bought a state of the art system. Totally portable, with a huge battery so I could take the technology with me on the practice tee. I couldn’t wait until I could use it with Mr. Palmer.

On the first available day, I had the system setup on the practice tee at Latrobe CC. When he arrived he asked, “What is that?” I explained and went into a long explanation about what it could do. In response I got a simple “Oh”. Turns out he never really looked at his swing on film much or thought much of its use. His explanation to me was that his swing never appeared on film like it felt to him. Over time he used the video, but he only watched his swing in real time. He never stopped the action and watched frame by frame the way we so often do today. It took me a while, but I came to understand why. He taught me that a golf swing is not an accumulation of positions, it is a movement done in sequence. He also taught me that bad swings are really swings out of sequence. When Mr. Palmer saw the frame by frame pictures of the movement, he lost the sense of sequence or feel he had for his swing. In other words he couldn’t translate real (the video) to feel (his swing). Even now, 20 years later I am convinced that understanding the sequence of your swing is the best way to learn a consistent efficient golf swing.

So in an analysis of your own golf swing, a good goal for the winter is to figure out what moves first, what happens next, and so on until the club gets back to the ball. The easiest way I have found to do this is to try and verbally describe your golf swing. For example, the sequence of Mr. Palmer’s swing could be described like this: The left arm swings back as the right hip turns to clear the way. The shoulders then turn to take the club to the top of the back swing. As the shoulders finish, the knees start the downswing by shifting toward the target and after the knees get moving, he swings the club to the ball with his hands. Left arm back, right hip clears. Turn to the top; Knees to the target; hands to the ball. That sequence produced the best results for him. Your sequence might be different, but you can build a better swing by simply describing how you move as you swing the club. Memorize the sequence and you will learn how to repeat your swing.

No comments: